Navy vet tapped to run city’s new veteran’s cemetary

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 27, 2004

A 30-year veteran of the U.S. Navy has been selected to stand at the helm of Virginia’s two state-run veterans cemeteries.

Daniel R. Kemano of Chesapeake will oversee operations of the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery, now in the finishing stages of construction in Suffolk, and the Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Amelia County.

Kemano, who retired from the military in 1994, comes to the job with eight years experience in cemetery operations. After leaving the Navy, he went to work as the grounds supervisor at Rosewood Memorial Gardens in Norfolk. A year later, he was promoted to grounds superintendent and assumed responsibility of a second cemetery.

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In 1999, Kemano moved to the Woodlawn Cemetery group, where he served first as grounds manager and then as operations manager for five cemeteries.

He retired from that cemetery company last year but kept his eye peeled for an advertisement seeking an administrator for the new veterans cemetery.

&uot;I applied as soon as I saw the ad. I thought the position would be a nice match for me,&uot; said Kemano. &uot;It’s an opportunity to give back to my fellow veterans. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for me.&uot;

Kemano anticipates spending one day a week in Amelia County, with the balance of the time being in Suffolk. Once the new cemetery opens and things are operating smoothly, Kemano anticipates devoting most of his time promoting the two cemeteries to veterans groups across Virginia.

&uot;So many people don’t know these state veteran cemeteries exist,&uot; Kemano said. &uot;The word just hasn’t gotten out about them yet.&uot;

Despite extensive rain this summer, construction of the first phase of the 73-acre cemetery on Milners Road is progressing on schedule and will be finished by mid-October, Kemano said.

The first phase includes the creation of 10,000 ground burial plots; a 3,000 capacity crematory; a total of 2,100 in-ground plots for interred remains; and 1,920 columbarium niches. It also includes construction of an administrative office with an information kiosk and a two-building maintenance complex.

Gov. Mark Warner, as well as state and federal veterans departments officials, will commission the cemetery on Nov. 1.

The cemetery is named for Albert G. Horton Jr., who first appealed to U.S. Sen. John Warner about the need to establish a veterans cemetery in Hampton Roads in 1987. Horton and a small committee of veterans spent six years jumping through governmental red tape before the state committed to build a second veterans cemetery. Unfortunately, Horton did not live to see his dream come to fruition.

Kemano doesn’t know exactly when burials will begin, since several state agencies have to issue necessary permits.

&uot;But the first person that is going to be interred – whenever that is – is Albert Horton and his wife,&uot; said Kemano.